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Posted on March 26, 2020 at 11:08 AM by Tiffany Marletta
COVID 19 Responses Ramp up
By Gregory T. Federspiel
The situation with the novel coronavirus continues to evolve. So, too, does the Town’s response. The developments are very fluid and require daily monitoring and decision making. Fortunately, we have a good team in place to help us all through this crisis. Our public safety personnel in particular are taking a strong leadership role here.
As I write this, we have our first confirmed COVID 19 infection in Manchester. The individual is so far doing fairly well and is quarantined at home. Hopefully recovery continues without incident. We will likely have more cases in the days and weeks ahead. A local infection puts an exclamation point on the critical need for social distancing and strong personnel hygiene practices.
Getting outside for some needed R&R or exercise is probably even more important during these stressful times. However, to help prevent people congregating in groups the Selectmen made the difficult decision to close the beaches and parks in Town. Despite the strong recommendations to avoid gatherings, the town parks and beaches were very crowded last weekend with many large groups of people interacting at close distances. Such activity is a prime way for the virus to spread and, at this critical time of trying to prevent the rapid escalation of infections, is extremely critical to avoid.
While Town Hall remans closed to the public all municipal departments remain in operation. Residents are encouraged to email or call the department they need to access. We are working to put as much information on-line as we can and will continue to provide updates through various mediums. We are now conducting public meetings virtually through the StartMeeting platform. Each upcoming meeting agenda, which is posted on-line, will have the log or call in information (you can access the meetings via your computer or your phone.) Our first meeting using this new platform had some 50 “attendees”!
Daily we receive new updates from the state and federal government. (You, too can access the state’s Department of Public Health website and well as the CDC’s site.) The Selectmen have declared a local emergency in concert with the state’s declaration. We have opened a local emergency operations command center within our police station to serve as a central clearing house of information for all staff and, when appropriate for the public. Special thanks to Police Chief Todd Fitzgerald and recently promoted Lieutenant Mark McCoy for getting this operational. We have gone to a revised schedule for many departments where-by half the staff remains working at home one week with the other half on-site and then swapping the next week. We hope to maintain a healthy crew at all times using this approach.
As you may know, the Annual Town Meeting is postponed. We will be setting a date for the meeting later. New legislation has just been adopted at the state level to allow local elections to be postponed as well. The Selectmen will take up this postponement at their next meeting currently scheduled for March 30th (via the virtual platform.
It is an understatement to say that these are unusual times. We will continue to keep you up to date through various communication channels. Again, please be vigilant in adhering to the strategies we all must take to fight this virus and prevent it from being even more widespread and disruptive than it already is. By curtailing (yes, sacrificing!) our normal activities now we will hopefully usher back sooner life as we want it to be.
Please don not hesitate to reach out with concerns or questions and stay healthy!
Posted on March 19, 2020 at 10:19 AM by Tiffany Marletta
Dealing with COVID 19
The on-going public health threat of the novel coronavirus is causing major disruptions to many aspects of our lives. As challenging as these disruptions can be, strong efforts now to tamp down the potential exponential spread of the virus can result in much fewer illnesses and a shortened duration of disruptions. I encourage all of us to adhere to the personal hygiene and social distancing measures that are being advised.
While the newly imposed restrictions, the canceling of so many activities and events and the abrupt change in daily routine is a bit disorienting, we can take comfort in knowing that we live in a community that has a strong tradition of pulling together when the need arises. In this case, the new actions should be more on an individualized basis given the need to avoid group activities but there are still ways to support each other. For example, the Council on Aging, through the efforts of COA Director Nancy Hammand, is helping to match up people who can run errands for more senior residents who are at greater risk doing food shopping or other essential errands. Another example is Allan’s Pharmacy could use help in their home delivery of prescription drugs during this time.
Be supportive of our local businesses. While we can no longer have a meal at a restaurant we can still order meals to go or purchase gift certificates. Other local stores have on-line ordering capabilities similar to the larger national companies.
We continue to provide municipal services to residents. While Town Hall is closed to the public, staff are still working and can be reached by phone or email. We are regularly disinfecting our work place and will be migrating to more and more tele-commuting as time goes on. We have many services that can be accessed on-line. If you have a service need please call the appropriate department and we will arrange ways to meet your needs.
As you may have heard, we must postpone the Annual Town Meeting for now – state law allows the moderator to do so in 30 day increments. We will be determining the new date later but it is likely to be in May or June. And various board and committee meetings will be moving to an on-line platform. Any member of the public will be able to log into a given meeting and participate in real time. Details of how to log in will be provided on the posted agendas which are available on-line. More information regarding this process will be forthcoming soon.
Maintaining the health and safety of residents and town staff is the highest priority we have. Other town matters can wait. We may need to stagger staffing to ensure we have a pool of healthy workers at any given time. If you need medical assistance and call 911, we have a protocol in place to ascertain whether you may have symptoms of COVID 19. If you do, our Fire Fighter/EMTs will respond with extra precautions in place. It is important that we keep our emergency responders healthy so that they remain available throughout the duration of this public health crisis.
We all have a part to play in beating back this virus. At the risk of repeating, it is critical to practice the social distancing norms being advanced, to stay home if you are not feeling well and to keep washing those hands!
We can use today’s technologies to stay connected and to continue to ensure municipal services continue. These are not the easiest of times but with compassion, a bit of patience and creative approaches to the challenges before us we will get to the other end of this, hopefully sooner rather than later. Stay healthy and offer a helping hand to a neighbor who may need some extra TLC.
Posted on March 12, 2020 at 4:51 PM by Tiffany Marletta
Community Preservation Projects on tap for Town Meeting
Each year voters are asked to review and approve a series of projects that are funded through the Community Preservation Fund. The dollars for the fund come from a 1.5% surcharge on everyone’s real estate bill as well as matching funds from the state. The match started out at 100% but has declined significantly as more communities have adopted the Community Preservation Act. Revamped legislation is hoping to put the match at a minimum of 35%.
Annually we collect a total of some $500,000 in CPA funds, assuming a 25% state match. The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) solicits request for possible projects every fall and, after vetting the projects, develops a list of recommended projects for voter consideration. Both the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen review the proposed list as well and, for this year, are supporting all of the CPC’s recommended projects.
Projects must fall within three state –mandated areas: 1) Open Space and Recreation; 2) Community Housing; and 3) Historic Preservation. The Open Space and Recreation projects being proposed include advancing the design/engineering work for the expansion of Sweeney Park to possibly include a new turf rectangular multi-purpose athletic field ($50,000 to be combined with $55,000 in Town capital funds); landscape restoration at all Town Parks including Tuck’s Point ($35,000); upgraded park/beach signs, water bubbler for Masco, and lighting upgrades at Sweeney ($12,000) and funds for creating a management plan for town conservation lands ($20,000 to be combined with $10,000 in Town capital funds.)
On the Community Housing front, the Town’s Housing Production Plan needs to be updated every five years and is due for its next update. A request for $8,500 is before voters for this update. The Manchester Affordable Housing Trust is slated to receive $150,000 for their efforts to create more affordable housing units in Town assuming voters continue to support this important work.
Regarding historic preservation efforts, $35,000 is targeted for the continued restoration of our historic cemeteries. Another $25,000 is proposed for the new Veteran’s Honor Roll to be built on the Common in front of Town Hall. $50,000 was approved previously with a targeted goal of 25% of the cost. With the escalation in construction costs, another $25,000 is needed to maintain this 25% contribution level and to help get the project across the finish line. $39,000 is slated for the restoration of the exterior of Seaside 1. The First Parish Church seeks $30,000 to help with the restoration of the steeple (railings and bell wheel on their historic and publicly significant building.
Finally, $20,000 is sought to cover administrative costs of the Committee, including the cost of the clerk who prepares agendas, processes project applications and compiles meeting minutes. Other administrative costs are also covered by this appropriation.
All told, voters are being asked to approve $424,500 in Community Preservation funding under Article 8 at the upcoming Annual Town Meeting, April 6. This would leave the CP Fund with a balance of some $200,000 by the end of the new fiscal year.